Vans are a contentious issue. My friend Malc had a van for nineteen years that he loved, until it got squashed between a Chelsea tractor and a small lorry while he was in it. My friend P loves her van, and so do I. It’s got it’s own shower and heating and it’s not bad for a slumber party on the beach. That said, when we slumbered on the beach, someone set fire to the caravan next to us and I ended up standing about in my pants and a T-shirt that was never meant to be seen in public, while the fire brigade put out the fire and the police took statements. P offered everyone cups of tea, and we were rewarded with some probing questions about how long we had been homeless for.

The proliferation of vans that seem to have appeared of late, are not the type that you could holiday in, but they are the type of van that could be implicated in someone getting squashed. Unlike Malc, there would be no need to sit in it and wait for impact. It would be more of a question of trying to navigate your way round it and hope that you no one runs you over.

The home shopping explosion, of which I am a guilty participant, has spawned a breeding programme of silver vans that say things like “thrifty” and “nifty”. They are neither of these things. I shan’t labour the obvious costs of fuel prices, but I wonder what is nifty about a van parked on the pavement at a busy intersection. It certainly isn’t the driver.

My legs hurt from my recent brush with prescription drugs. I was concentrating on just putting one foot in front of the other when I came to the spot where I generally cross the road, a minute from home. “Nifty” was parked across the corner, with the door open, leaning against his van having a chat on his phone. My only options were to walk out into the middle of the road in order to check for traffic, or climb over the top of his van. I asked him to move his van. He shrugged his shoulders and explained, “What can I do? I have so many deliveries to make.”
“You can back your van round the corner and park in a parking bay.”
Then he got back into his van and left the door open and carried on with his phone call that entailed a lot of shouting.
“Can you at least close the door so I can get past?”
No, he could not, but what he could do was to wedge his foot against the door so that the pavement was blocked. Did I mention I had cane in hand?
“Go round,” he ordered.
“Close your door and let me get through.”
We were in a stand off and this was more likely to turn rotten pretty quickly than the vegetables languishing in my fridge. I wasn’t looking for a fight. I just wanted to go home.

I’d like to say that I took photos and reported him to some authority somewhere, who used the information in a dawn raid, to finally apprehend one of Interpol’s most wanted. In a twist of injustice, I found myself walking round the back of the van and out into the moving traffic. All I could think of was the pain in my legs and putting one foot in front of the other in the slow dash for home. Then he shouted at me and I shouted back. He might have had the manners of a van driver, but I have the language of a lorry driver and offered up that well known British directive.

Written: Thursday 18th January 2023